Baseball is back! Even though Spring Training hasn’t started yet in the big leagues and snow covers much of the northern Untied States, fans of SEC baseball will file into stadiums across the Southeast this weekend for the first games of the college baseball season.
Known for its football prowess, the SEC is possibly a deeper baseball conference. The College World Series championship game has featured at least one SEC team since 2008. Last June, the Vanderbilt Commodores claimed their first NCAA championship in Omaha after a 3rd place finish in the SEC East.
The league is loaded with individual talent with 12 players on the Golden Spikes Award watch list. The Golden Spikes Award is given to the top amateur baseball player in the country each season.
Several SEC teams will make a run at Omaha this season. The SEC has eight teams in the preseason top 25 according to D1Baseball.com with four teams in the top 10.
Vanderbilt 2B Dansby Swanson leads a trio of ‘Dores on Baseball America’s preseason first-team All-American list. The defending champions have the target on their back for the first time, but they have the talent to overcome it. Swanson hit .333 with 22 steals in 2014 and is projected as an early first round pick in this summer’s draft. Their staff is anchored by righties Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler. The duo combined for a 19-3 record with a 2.33 ERA last year in 26 starts.
Florida is an early favorite for Omaha and are #2 in the D1Baseball.com poll. They are led by junior SS Richie Martin and sophomore utility man AJ Puk. Martin provided a boost for the Gators at the top of the order last year with 18 steals and 49 runs scored. Puk went 5-2 with a 3.44 ERA on the mound and saw some time in the field as a first baseman last year.
LSU is looking to rebound from its regional loss to Houston last spring and they have the talent to do it. The Tigers are the runaway favorites in the SEC West. Junior OF Andrew Stevenson will lead the offense once again. In 2014, he hit a team-high .335 with seven doubles and five triples.
South Carolina rounds out the quartet of SEC teams in the top 10 of the preseason polls. The season ended early for the Gamecocks last year when they lost to Maryland in the Columbia regional. It was the first time they had not won an NCAA Regional championship since 2009. Junior infielder Max Schrock leads the way offensively for USC. He hit .299 with 5 homers in 2014.
Each week, we’ll preview crucial match-ups across the league and power rank teams based on their performance and potential.
Baseball Quote of the Week:
I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it. ~Rogers Hornsby
Key Weekend Series:
#9 LSU vs. Kansas – LSU will host a Kansas team that is coming off its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. A player to watch in this series is junior SS Alex Bregman. The preseason first-team All-American is coming off an excellent 2014, hitting .316 with 6 home runs and 47 RBI. He is a projected top 15 pick by many experts in the 2015 MLB draft.
Weekend Series: vs. Santa Clara
2. Florida Gators (0-0 Last Week, 0-0 Overall)
Weekend Series: vs. Rhode Island
Weekend Series: vs. Kansas
Weekend Series: vs. College of Charleston
5. Mississippi State Bulldogs (0-0 Last Week, 0-0 Overall)
Weekend Series: vs. Cincinnati
6. Ole Miss Rebels (0-0 Last Week, 0-0 Overall)
Weekend Series: vs. William & Mary
Weekend Series: vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore
Weekend Series: vs. North Dakota
Weekend Series: vs. Holy Cross
Weekend Series: at Florida International
Weekend Series: at Ball State
Weekend Series: vs. Binghamton
Weekend Series: vs. Eastern Illinois
Weekend Series: at Iona